When controversy strikes, I know exactly what will happen…my liberal friends will push an agenda calling my conservative friends racist, bigots, uninformed, hillbillies. My conservative friends raise megaphones taunting my liberal friends and labeling them unpatriotic and evil…
I will sit here and I wonder where I fit in. Should I donate all my Nike gear (which is ALLLLOOOTT of gear…) because someone with a message I don’t necessarily disagree with chose to perpetuate that message in a way I wouldn’t have chosen? Can I expect everyone to choose to act in a way I deem fit? When people act contrary to my beliefs does that make them my enemies?
Where did this dichotomy come from? These criteria we perpetuate consist mostly of two choices… TWO. The, “us vs. them,” mentality. The “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” mindset. Or my personal favorite – the “you’re either with us or against us,” proposition. I try not to engage in political discourse anymore because the discourse has faded from existence and been replaced with battery, political battery, and the real winner depends on which channel is reporting the fight.
These messages have infiltrated EVERY GENRE OF LIFE. It’s supposed to determine who our friends are, where we order a burger from, and even what clothes we wear.
There are more than two sides to this American story. There are crowds of individuals wandering in the wilderness trying to find ears that listen and voices that speak reason. Members of that crowd often wonder whose definition of “virtue” and “good” they fall under until they finally realize that these definitions are just as fluid as the newest viral outrage. This outrage has formed a toxic relationship with chaos, a chaos that actually breathes life into violence, vitriol, and fear.
When humans behind profile pictures can assume the absolute worst about other humans behind profile pictures based on two sentences and an emoji and effectively evoke all the isms in one keystroke our hope for productive candor is lost. When comment sections and street interviews are filled with colorful wraths of violence to be brought upon the opposition, our hope for understanding is lost.
We have become a people who are incapable of processing our anger. Instead, we act it out and give it to others because we are too weak to sit through it ourselves. Anger is the new social media marketing tool. This anger is like an inversion over our valleys of fresh air. It fills our lungs and dulls our vision until our capacity to recollect moments of sunshine and blue skies are lost. Is there hope that for this divided house?
There is always hope, and hope is a common theme throughout our American history, even our most recent history.
In a series of phone calls to his wife, Tom Burnett pieced together a haunting puzzle. He had just witnessed someone being stabbed on his flight after which men in red bandanas prompted all the passengers to the back of the plane. In hushed tones passengers of flight 93 called their loved ones, learning of the World Trade Centers-sorting through the details in whispers and then quietly coming to the realization that their current reality was a mirror of a similar fate. “Ok. There’s a group of us and we’re going to do something,” were the last words Tom Burnett uttered to his wife.
A plane full of ordinary people from unique backgrounds with colorful and diverse stories concluded their earthly mission while engaging in the most heroic of acts. The narrative shifted, a new story was written. The infamous day of our generation, though tragic and devastating inspired the sun to rise on a new morning. The light touched upon people who collectively decided that differences could not outweigh the common thread that binds us all together. That thread is intertwined with hope. Hope for better tomorrows.
Strangers held the hands of those longing for loved ones lost in the carnage. First responders ran into literal chaos. Lines were blurred, the utterance of differences was moot. Recruiting stations were flooded. Little boys and girls were watching. They grew up. They vowed to “do something.” Our generation’s day of infamy is not defined by September 11, rather it is the story of September 12th. A day filled with acts of doing by those who were reminded that the only thing that matters is our ability and duty to love one another.
We have a choice. Instead of screaming we can listen. Instead of throwing stones we can sit at dinner tables. When the media presents a new message of outrage we can go outside and talk with our neighbors. Our story is not one where someone wins and someone loses. The villain in this plot is not clothed in one team’s colors. We can still be the people we were nearly seventeen years ago. We can still be individuals that “do something.” We can still disagree, and we can still advocate for causes we deem worthy. These things do not have to change, but our methods of doing them do. Our speech when we are angry, our candor when we disagree, the dichotomous thinking we often engage in, are all things that have to be regulated, and whole-heartedly checked.
Abraham Lincoln said,”A house divided against itself cannot stand.” From our most intimate beginning, our country has relied on the construct of unity. While our thoughts, skins, cultures, ethnicities, genders, social classes, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, and a million other aspects of life may be diverse, our regard for humanity must be collectively appreciated. I hope for better tomorrows. I pledge to be outside finding common ground with my neighbors. I’ll see you out there.